This has been tested this past year and never more so than when I was sitting with my sister who was dying. I discovered in that moment that ideas, concepts and stuff you've learned intellectually just doesn't cut it. Only real truth will do. And that comes from a deeper place of knowing.
I don't mean true like whether you believe it or not through the lens of your clever, quick and bright brain, I just mean true like truth – deep down soulful truth. Before your brain conjures up belief and thought. The is-ness of life. What is so about our human experience – and somewhere inside we all know what is true.
I have been learning in the past few years that there are two different types of knowing. Intellectual knowing – which is like what you learn in books, and times tables and how to boil an egg (I’ve got that right down by the way). Informational. Analytical. Logical.
And the then there’s Insightful knowing. Deep down in your gut knowing. All in a flash. Just true. A realisation. An ‘a-ha’ moment. A context shifter. And it kind of doesn’t matter what anyone else knows or says. You just know.
So this is what I noticed came out when I was with my sister – from a place where I knew I couldn’t know it intellectually but never-the-less I absolutely knew it to be true. Don’t ask me how I know – because I can’t prove it (that would be intellectual knowing). But when you know, you know.
I said ‘You have an intellectual mind and a physical body – but you are more than that. Who you really are is not your mind or your body. There is a part of you that is spiritual and eternal and is part of the whole, the one-ness of life. And that part never dies’. And she said: ‘I know.’
So it got me to thinking, what else do I know to be true? From what I see right now, here’s another six:
1. I am ok.
To be honest, I think lots of us (and me for many years) harbour a sneaking suspicion like a dirty secret, that we are not ok. And if someone really knew some of the terrible things we think, feel and sometimes do, they too would agree, we are really not ok. And this is very compelling and believable. It’s just that that is all poo-poo. We convince ourselves through the power of our thoughts that we are not ok, it is like thinking that the sun is gone when there are clouds covering the sky. I know that there is a part of us that is untouchable – that eternal spirit part. And that’s connected to some kind of energy force, so much greater than I can possibly imagine. And that untouchable part has been there with me through the toughest times in my life, and knowing that, well, even in the worst of mental weather – that’s my life raft. I have come to think that we are not the clouds or even the sun, we are more like the sky.
2. When I listen to and believe the 'poo' in my head - I feel like s**t.
My lovely husband will sometimes say to me when I am having a down moment – bitching, moaning or generally gloomy. “Darling, is that you or the poo in your head speaking.” And immediately I wake up to the truth that I have started to believe my black day thoughts as if they were real and am speaking from that. And that’s understandable because it is also a truth that our thoughts create our feelings.
Whatever thoughts we have, we bring to life through consciousness – what we are conscious of – or our awareness. We usually notice this as feelings – our barometer for the state of our thinking. Have you ever noticed it’s possible to be really unhappy in the perfect circumstances – say on a beach in the sunshine, and really happy and at peace in less than perfect circumstances – say when someone is dying or life hasn’t gone to plan. That is because it is not our circumstances creating our experience - it is the power of thought, which we bring to life through our own consciousness – whatever our attention is on in any moment we make real.
That is why poo thinking creates s****y feelings. But as it’s only thought, if I don’t pay it much mind, it will blow away like clouds and the sun will shine again and I will feel differently.
3. Trying to solve problems never really works.
Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
For me that means we sometimes see situations as problems and that means we usually have a lot of thinking about the situation – often in the form of ‘this’ (situation) should be some other way than the way that it is. Or we have invested the situation (which is outside of us) with the potential to make us unhappy or happy. ‘My older son really shouldn’t be critical to my younger son.’ I could totally go to town and make the case how this is really true and all the reasons why. I could wax lyrical about how that situation makes me feel…. (helpless, hopeless, angry, scared, guilty, a failure) fill in the blank.
It’s just that, this is simply not how the human system actually works. We create our moment to moment experience of a situation through our own thoughts. What we think is not ultimately true, it is just what we think right now. Nothing more, nothing less. And what we think can (and does) change.
When we can see that it is our own thinking that creates the problem – which happens from the inside out (what I think about what my son is doing – not what he is actually doing) – we can also see that we can have fresh thought about the situation at any moment. And it is the fresh thought that creates a fresh perspective. A new level of thinking. And that an answer to anything can come in a flash of insight with a fresh perspective. It is fresh perspectives that ‘solve’ problems (or make them go away). All we ever really need to ‘do’ is to be open to a fresh perspective.
To complete the picture, I saw with fresh eyes that when my elder son was being critical, he was feeling insecure himself. So instead of getting all up on my high horse with him (that never turns out well), I had compassion, maintained connection and found a place where I could both understand his experience and surprisingly see through his behavior to the positive intention behind it – which was to help (correct) his brother to be the best version of himself. (mmmm sounds familiar that).
4. Every answer I've ever needed has always come on time (just not necessarily to my schedule)
We all have access to a great wisdom inside of us. It speaks with a quiet voice. I sometimes think I need to know what to do about something. The truth is – sometimes I know what to do and sometimes I don’t. I’ve learnt to pay more attention to this feeling and respect it.
I’ve had a couple of really sticky negotiations lately. You know those ones that fire you up inside and where you want to urgently assert you rights, right now and be right. Because, you know, you are right. In the past, I fire off long justifying emails, that take me hours to write so I get the tone right to not piss the other person off. (ever the optimist). But actually I can see their point of view too and so I’m just not quite sure.
Well, I’ve still written these emails (in my state of doubt) – but instead I’ve waited for that feeling of I know what to do here. Both times after leaving it alone for a bit and sleeping on it and leaving it to the edge of the real (not my own made-up) deadline. And you know it’s interesting. One of the emails I only mildly tweaked and sent. And got a great response. And the other one I completely scrapped did the opposite and got a great response.
I’ve noticed that when I think I should know right now what to do (and I don’t) I end up having a lot of thinking about what to do – ruminating, turning it over and over in my mind, looking at pros and cons, second guessing and self-doubt. All of which creates a busy mind (and takes a lot of my time up too) - and in my experience a busy mind and thinking hard creates a lot of mental noise, repetitive thoughts and sense of urgency. It’s hard to hear the quiet voice of wisdom through all that. I’ve learnt to trust that a quiet, calm mind with not much going on in it – coupled with a clear intention - will bring me the answer that I need when I actually need it (rather then when I think I need it)
As Michael Neill world renowned transformative coach and author says:
‘Show up and aim yourself in a direction, then respond to what shows up along the way because whenever you show up and aim yourself in a direction, the impersonal intelligence behind life shows up with you.’
5. I forget all of this sometimes but it's still true.
I have come to a much deeper appreciation for the idea that we are both divine and human. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. There is an animating life force – the impersonal intelligence behind life - the force that makes the stars shine, has trees grow and cuts heal- that we are all part of and when we are connected to that, it effortlessly guides us with a sense of lightness, ease and peace.
I will never forget that the morning my sister died, all I could experience was a deep profound peace and the beauty of the sunrise that morning, the privilege of being with my family and the sacredness of sitting with my youngest sister mourning on the beach juxtaposed against the everydayness of picking up some coffees for our nephews.
And then there are the other days. Days of confusion, lost-ness and upset where I forget. But it’s all part of the rich tapestry of being human. Some days we are connected to the source of our wellbeing and some days not so much. We have good days and bad days.
I now know that even on the worst days – lost in thought and feelings, it’s still true that I am ok – even though it doesn’t seem that way right now. I have learned to see the nature of thought as passing through and that I can look in another direction and focus my awareness on something else, by just noticing with compassion and awareness what my human thinking is doing and trusting that my inner guidance system will surface when my mind clears – all by itself.
I have also noticed, that whenever I think I should be some other way than the way that I really am – that extends my suffering versus lessens it. Like grief should happen on a schedule, like I shouldn’t be tired but push harder, like it’s not ok to have a duvet, netflix and chocolate day when there is a list of things to do.
6. Whatever the problem there is only one solution.
It seems to me when we truly understand what we are made of (I’m going to go with the word love here) and what is creating our experience (our very own thoughts we make real), and understand how our human operating system actually works in practice (insideout) – versus how it might seem to work (outside in), we end up with a lot more quality state of mind – I’m talking peaceful, calm, resilient, wise, easy, light, loving, open, insightful, creative – the good stuff. And state of mind is the key differential in any endeavor – whether it be work, relationships, performance, leadership, innovation or wellbeing.
In the end, as far as I can tell, all of us are doing whatever we are doing that makes sense to us to make our way home – in an attempt to feel better, more ok, more at peace in the world. The real truth is that when we know we already are home, and can touch that space within, the space of true insight, the being of being human - we really have everything we need- and that is the pure gold. And you can take it from me, that is what I know for sure - and if it’s true for me, it’s true for you.
About Elizabeth — As a State of Mind Leadership Coach with over 20 years experience, Elizabeth Lovius helps business leaders discover the source of leadership wisdom and be real, more human and true to who they are.
Elizabeth supports business leaders and changemakers to collaborate and have real relationships of unity, appreciation and accountability that lead to real results.
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Elizabeth’s clients include: Hewlett Packard, IBM, itsu, ITV, Charlie Bighams, CookFood, Pret a Manger, the English RFU and WPP group.
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October 6 & 7th, 2016 www.leadershipwisdom.info